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Ask HN: Hacker News users reading habits
94 points by pmcpinto on Mar 29, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 73 comments
I think it would be interesting to talk about our reading habits, so here there are some questions related with this topic: - How many articles do you read each day? - They're usually related to your job or to some side projects? - Do you usually read about a variety of topics or it's focused in 2 or 3 topics only? - Do you usually read during some time of the day or it's usually random?

I read 3-5 articles per day, but oftentimes, I read the comments of 20-30 articles without clicking on the actual article. Recent example: Article about Angular 4.0 being released. I don't care about the article, but I do care about the comments of the JS folks.

That's pretty dead on to how I read HN. Full articles when I am curious about the subject matter, straight to comments when I am more curious about how others view the material. Sometimes the comment threads will prompt me to go back and read the source.

Yea I do almost exactly the same. I am trying to make more of an effort to read the article as well though, as a part of me feels like going straight to the comments is lazy and/or a bad habit.

Same and I've thought about this a lot. I so often only read the comments without reading the actual article. Surely the fact that so many people do this must mean there's an untapped opportunity somewhere?

I also do this, but I'm not sure that it's unique to hacker news. The immediate example that comes to mind is that while one might not watch something like a Presidential Address, or for that matter a White House news conference, one is more likely to watch the evening news or read a newspaper where people dissect the information and TLDR it for them as well as provide some contextual commentary.

Yes, I thought that, I have a note in my sketch ideas: "Extract comments from HN", normally I value them more than the actual article. They are important, like reviews.

Going along with "reviews," in this era of blogspam, I like to read the comments first so I start out a skeptic, if I should be. Very often, the top comment for an article is a rebuttal, if there is some misinformation in an article, or perhaps a poorly-done study.

Basically, people who are smarter than me usually get to tell me why the journalist is wrong.

Yeah, it would be cool if someone made a bot to extract a summary from the article and post it as a comment to help those who have not read the article.

Someone did. Or faked one. IIRC it was active for a few days but was told in clear terms to stop or be banned.

Somewhat related: I have been using the HN bot on Telegram. That way I could even catch a glimpse of wildly popular stories that have been flagged of the site :-)

A TL;DR service could maybe be made as a browser extension that pulls it from some external source instead. Not visible for those that don't want it, and also removes the problem from having to hunt for the TL;DR comment when there are many replies.

There's a bot like this on Reddit that works surprisingly well.

The one I've seen (and been impressed with) uses http://smmry.com/ to condense articles to a tldr.

Same for me, with one additional piece: I'll almost always read the article before writing a comment.

Exactly the same. By reading comments, you do get the community idea on that particular article. To be frank, I felt comments gives more information than the article it self, atleast IMHO.

I just read HN for the comments.

same here

I'm surprised there are no comments on your question...so let me be the first. I'm a medical student about to start residency. I also have a master's degree in computer science.

I read a lot of articles about AI in medicine, pretty much anything I can get my hands on. I also read generic tech articles related to everything from Nintendo Switch, Tesla, Brain-Computer interfaces, and other popular media articles.

-How many articles do you read each day? Likely 10+. These aren't high-brow articles, just random blog posts and pop culture tech. I read about 2-3 research abstracts per day in medicine and maybe skim the text of 1-2 articles.

-They're usually related to your job or to some side projects? Usually they are related to my interest in medicine or technology. Sometimes they are related to my job (I work as a part-time developer / data scientist). I also run a small website (https://www.cronote.com). I encountered a number of issues with time-zone switching and the daylight savings change on March 12th. Read about 20 articles having to do with correctly implementing timezones in Python.

-Do you usually read about a variety of topics or it's focused in 2 or 3 topics only? Topics cover a vast span of medicine and computer science. I enjoy computer science more than medicine so it's a 20:80 split.

-Do you usually read during some time of the day or it's usually random? I read whenever I'm behind my computer, usually alternating between work and browsing the Internet. This amounts to ~5 hours per day.

I read random when i'm stuck on something or have to rethink on things. Doing something else for 5 minutes let's me suddenly think about it differently.

The subject doesn't count. I don't read the new stories though, otherwhise it would be a bigger timesink ;-) .

Always interested in hearing other people's thoughts, HN has some good reasoning in comments. I prefer it over watching the daily news in the noon :)

I save interesting stories on my side project http://tagly.azurewebsites.net/, which can also show HN comments when adding the tag: commentsbyhackernews ( it's currently a bookmarking service for myselve mostly, but it can do a lot more under the hood)

Eg. : http://tagly.azurewebsites.net/Item/Details?id=49b1ed7e-5d35...

Edit: Example feature, add a article to wsj.com ( paywalled) and it will automaticly create a link through facebook. So you can read it ( i hate paywalled articles)

I have subscribed to RSS feed on feedly where I skim through the list when I am idle/on the road/catching a smoking break and If I find something interesting save the link to pocket.

I usually clear my pocket reading list each weekend, even if there was something I dint finish reading (used to happen a lot), I just flush it out because that helps me determine my bandwidth for reading over a fixed time period.

Though mostly I am interested in comments section of tech/startups related topics, I also use feedly's reader count to decide whether to read or not articles on other topics.

I'm not sure if the question is about reading habits on HN, or the reading habits of the HN demographic.

If it is the former, I middle-click 3-4 articles a day, and if they are also juicy topics, I middle-click the comments links as well.

If it is the latter, I read tons of articles a day (avg 20), some related to tech, but mostly not. I read in the morning, at lunch (very productive time to read), and after dinner.

Offline: I have subscriptions to dead-tree versions of Time, Harvard Business Review, and Foreign Affairs. I also have 4-5 books on the go at any given time, mostly nonfiction. I go through phases, and my last major one was statistics and category theory.

Online: Slashdot, Reddit, HN, Marginal Revolution, John D Cook, Farnam Street, Quora, and a bunch of data science related blogs. I also read articles on the getpocket.com recommended list, and I find myself drawn to reading articles on The Atlantic.

What data science blogs?

Simply Statistics, Andrew Gelman, DataTau, Win-Vector, StatsBlogs (an aggregator)

Cool, thanks!

I read the comments before I read the articles, if at al

Most of my reading is off HN/Reddit, whatever catches my eye and looks interesting which can be up to 10 articles in a day, but often enough 0-1.

I use https://bazqux.com as a RSS reader to keep up with the stuff I actually want to follow. Some gaming sites, LWN, EFF's deeplinks and the blogs of various products my company or I use.

(BTW, I highly recommend bazqux. UI very close to Google Reader, very cheap and with a lifetime subscription option)

What is a deeplink?

Deeplinks is an EFF blog. https://www.eff.org/deeplinks

I do a lot of my news reading via RSS feeds to Newsblur. One of those RSS feeds is from hnapp.com which generates an RSS feed of Hacker News submissions with a score over 50 or more than 30 comments.

If there's something I want to read later I send it to Pocket which my ereader supports, so I can read them on my nice portable eink device whenever I have a spare moment stuck in a waiting room or on a bus or whatever.

According to my reading habits[1] I've averaged reading 690 articles that way in each of the last two years.

In order to track my article reading habits, plus follow up on articles in related forums such as Hacker News after I’d read them and such, so I wrote a litte PHP browser based application that interfaces with the Pocket API to help me manage all that.

Naturally I called it Pocket Lint.

[1] http://www.michevan.id.au/tag/books/

check every weekday, but only click and read one, maybe two articles each day. I always read comments in the articles about Go to see the Haskell programmers having tantrums. I always read comments in the articles about JavaScript to see the Go programmers having tantrums. I don't ever read anything about politics from HN because people that read HN are not a representative sample of the real world; HN isn't exactly a wellspring of political diversity. I basically only look for announcements and stories about catastrophic failures in production systems.

also fwiw this is by nature a broken census since the people that will click this link are already gonna be the people that like the comment threads (since it's only a comment thread) and the people that respond are the people that post comments. so basically your feedback about how people behave based on comments is already going to select down to people that post comments on HN, which is likely a single-digit percentage of people that visit HN. asking users how they use a website on that website will always be subject to extreme sampling bias. so... this is fun by all means but let's not look too far into it ;)

I subscribe to some newsletters that aggregate weekly articles around some category or topic. This is a lot easier for me as I do not have to continually scan sources for new articles.

I also try to read a book or article on something new I want to learn. My most recent book I started reading is called the Mom Test. Its about doing customer development, and it touches on the subject of what type of questions you should be asking.

I read about 10 articles per day, filtering through the top 10 to find the ones that I could be interested in. I really like the comment section, as it's a lot more civilized than other online community, and they usually add another perspective to the post. I actually make it a point not to read comment on most articles/blog other than HN because it tends to be filled with trolls.

I read HN in this way I go to https://news.ycombinator.com/news?p=5, then https://news.ycombinator.com/news?p=4, till "/news" which is the same as "?p=1". I do that every night before bedtime.

If maybe I'm too busy and can't read HN one night, what I do is read the next day starting from "?p=10", if I miss two days I start from "?p=15" and so on, though that query has a varying limit, going after the limit gives no results, in the past I've gotten a successful request til "?p=25" but today it seems the limit is just "?p=10", most times I've seen the "?p=15" working.

I don't want to miss new tools or discussions so I always try to keep a maximum of 2 days of not reading HN.

> How many articles do you read each day?

0 - 1 Articles

100+ Comments on 20 - 25 articles.

I use the comments as a curation tool, to decide if the article is really worth reading, or click-bait. Sometimes the comments also do a TL;DR; summary of the original article, so that saves me time (esp. on rambling articles that write 1000 words to prove a couple of points or make a statement / take a stance on something).

> They're usually related to your job or to some side projects?

Job, side-project and technology related. I'm here only for the comments as I see gems from software industry veterans and experts whose knowledge on various tech topics far exceeds mine.

> Do you usually read about a variety of topics or it's focused in 2 or 3 topics only?

Usually 2 to 3 - I mostly come here for "Show HN", "Ask HN" and technology related announcements / findings. I come here to find inspiration and motivation to ship my side-projects.

> Do you usually read during some time of the day or it's usually random?

Random, throughout the day. It's gone up more ever since I gave up reading mainstream news after the elections. ( Nov 10th 2016 to be precise). I try to avoid political news on HN also. The mods have done a great job of flagging and removing them, so I am very grateful for that.

Related Reading: http://joel.is/the-power-of-ignoring-mainstream-news/

P.S. I also use https://hckrnews.com/ It loads super fast , has a very clean pleasing UI and helps me quickly scan the top stories on HN and decide which ones to come and peruse.

I read mostly geopolitical articles and whatever TheBrowser kicks up to me. I used to read a lot of books, but these days a book has to be really attractive for me to get over the usual low signal to noise ratio that books offer.

I've been on a reading diet for the last few weeks, I plan to kick back into high gear soon, with a project I'm building to ingest all my reading materials and present them to me in bite-sized formats. I used to be satisfied with Pocket, but my reading workload is too heavy to comfortably shoulder, so I need my own power tools.

What would be great is if I could break books up by chapter and feed them into the system, so that way they don't feel so heavy. I'll find a way to do that eventually, probably based on some ugly hack of converting Kindle books to EPUB or something ungodly like that.

Will you eventually open source these power tools? :)

I could, but it's all very custom work. The world doesn't need my xpath to slice up Stratfor or RubyWeekly emails. These small tools need a bigger toolbox to live in, someone needs to build that toolbox. I could open-source my toolbox, but it's not really anything special either, just a dumb interface to a dumb database, and a dumb API layer on top of it.

If it starts to look like something better than a shop piece, I'll definitely put it out there.

I read about 8 articles a day, mostly from HN and Lifehacker.com, usually just Productivity "Junk Food" Articles

Depending on my energy and/or how long my build is taking, sometimes I just skim articles headings and throw them to Pocket. Then when I have medium energy and more time, I open up my Pocket, filter aggressively, and read the rest. Really long articles get tagged with #someday and go to the weekend.

I've been trying to focus on C & C++ related articles, as that's what I want to and will be doing more. But I also find articles about Functional Programming very interesting.

I couldn't care less about start-ups or the culture. I can't even open most policy or political posts now because it's just a punch to the gut every day. I read less than 1 comment on average per article.

20-50. :-( related to work, related to Tech, personal interests, news (politics, world, finance)

3-4 articles per day.

Probably split equally between tech things I think might be helpful ("Python, Bash, SQL how tos" etc.) and non-tech things which are novel.

Like "Guy frozen in ice brought back to life after 600 years" (which wasn't a real article but if it had been you bet I would have read it).

I avoid most article from major news source (I keep up with the news anyway) and most Medium stories and anything with a social justice type slant (nothing wrong with that, it's just not of interest and not why I'm here). Also skip most "Our startup is doing XX or shutting down or whatever".

Skim comments for many more articles (~20) and if they look interesting read more in depth.

I actually read 3-5. I read the comments on another 3-5 without reading the article. Like WA said above. Sometimes I care more about the comments than the original article. I also find that if I'm not totally sure if an article is worth my time or not there are usually a couple of high-quality comments that will let me know if I should. I really love HN for that. I will also usually bookmark 10-20 articles with the intention of coming back to read them later, but I almost never do.

As to the type of article, I'm all over the place. Sometimes it's work related, sometimes a side project, sometimes just something I've got a passing interest in.

I tend to read a couple of scholarly-type articles a week and a bunch of blog/tech sites as interesting things come up. That said, I've been reading a lot of literary fiction lately as I've been spending time in that circle because my wife just launched her first novel (and it's really quite brilliant, actually).


Grab a copy at your local indie bookstore!

I read for pleasure during my commute. (Days when I work at home are a little more stressful because I don't get that enforced downtime.)

During the workday, I check various sources of information about once an hour, unless I'm working on something that requires either research or flow.

I run an RSS collector to manage repeating sources of information and categorize them for me. I add sources as I come across them and clean it out about once every six months.

Everything I read during the workday is related to work, but that's about fifteen different topics.

I'd be interested in hearing if people share my habit of always reading 3ish nonfiction books in parallel. I have a pretty hard time sticking to one. It's usually a programming or related book, some science book and some pop-science or selfhelp or marketing related stuff (or something like outdoor living, fishing etc.). And usually fiction during the commute. Oftentimes I'll also have random collections of stuff (Lovecraft collection) or comic books lying around for a "quick read".

I tend to be listening to at least one audiobook, reading at least one book on Kindle and dipping into a few old favourite physical books.

Forgot the audiobook I listen while driving.

The main problem I have with audiobooks (and to a lesser extent books on the Kindle) is the ease of dipping in and finding a good bit to read again.

I know it should actually be easier - but it never seems to work that way.

One of the reasons I am teaching myself to read spectrograms is so that I can skim through audio.

You might see something about my progress on HN in a few years :)

Oh yeah! I'm always reading more than 2, 3, 4 books in parallel. It usually is 2 fiction books, 1-2 non-fiction books, not necessarily programming. And this in a combination of sources: physical books, play books, kindle, safari... Plus random collections of magazine and comics sticking around :))

I read 2 to 5 articles a day. But this reading is not comprehensive instead it's like looking the important points, although skimming is the key of surfing but recently I've discovered that it shortens attention span so it seems theres a big effect to changing other habits too.

That's why I'm in the diet of not skimming through instead if I start one article I finish no matter how boring it is. But it's very hard I'm old surfer and suffering for deep concentration..

I skim Hacker News couple of times a day. I prefer reading books (on Kindle), ~30 mins to 1 hour every night before sleep and 20-30 mins every morning after waking up.

I'm a Mathematics major so I make a point of reading all maths related articles and if I have something to contribute then definitely comment.

On average I read 2-3 articles fully but it also depends what's it on. On breaks I always try to read top 10 or 15 and sometimes comment. I find this community and commentators quite a pleasure to read because many of us posses something unique or at least it seems so.

My anecdata: I don't read much on internet anymore aside from what's linked on HN and what I research for a specific topic. Plus a bit of news at CNN and a bit of Producthunt.

I read about 15 articles on average and all comments to about 10 of them and scan some comments for the rest. My reading is batched around morning, lunch, and evening. I download few articles to Pocket for offline readin. During subway commute.

Usually would read topics that are of interest to me (i.e. technology, software development, frameworks, etc.).

For the others, I would usually skim through the article and also read the comments.

I am finding that there's a lot of value reading the comments, as some folks have that deep seated knowledge, as well as providing relevant links that will help you further grasp what's on the article.

Usually if I find an article that I'd like to read, I skim it and then decide if I want to actually sit down and read it word for word, and if so I save it for the weekend. Usually skim through a couple articles daily, and they go all over ranging from tech to non related tech stuff.

I always open the article and comments in separate tabs. I then skim the article if it's very short, if it's long-form I read the comments first. If the comments indicate it's worth reading I save it in my favorites for later.

I still have a list of ~40 articles to clear out...

Skim 5 to 10 articles daily. Interesting ones keep accumulating browser tabs till weekend. Mostly tech, personal interest. Have allocated time for cleaning up all the tabs on weekend. For long reads, I use TextAloud to quickly convert to audio and listen with faster speed.

A fun game to play with a co-worker is "what articles would you click on the homepage?" I just did that yesterday. My co-worker knew every link I'd opened (without looking at my screen) and I couldn't figure out most of his.

95% of the time I only read comments. People usually insert quotes from the article and discuss them right away. And it is much more valuable to read comments because there are a lot of smart people commenting who work in related fields.

Mostly comments on websites. Even when I read something for learning (books/articles/blog posts) I tend to skim it at best. My attention span is getting fairly low.

Either about iOS development, design or (lately) learning thai language-material.

1) I read HM during break time. For like 5-10 minutes.

2) Usually I open the interested topics in other tabs and have a quick scan on the passage/ website

3) If that's interesting, I will add it to my reading list

4) I go over the reading list after dinner when I have free time

I read hacker news daily when ever i am free, hacker news is the next thing i do. Apart from this i have subscribed to hacker news 500 Pushbullet channel. When ever any news hits 500, i get notification on my phone or chrome.

I read a handful of articles a day covering several disciplines. I usually am reading two or three books at a time. Reading a few chapters of each, setting it down and round robining through threw them.

I have the RSS feed in my reader, I skim through he headlines with it mixed in among other technology RSS feeds, I read maybe 2-3 interesting topics, mostly in the morning while eating breakfast.

I use the RSS feed with Feedly. I only read things about actual technology relevant to me, and skip everything about silicon valley startup nonsense.

I use The Old Reader as a news aggregator and my own emacs mode to read it via API. In fact I read HN in emacs :) At least when I'm home.

I read 3-5 articles on the average, mostly very different topics to enlarge my knowledge and get to know Sites that I did not know before!

I read about 20-40 articles per day, mostly tech or business related. Generally speaking, I find them on HN, Facebook, Twitter.

I read 10-20 articles a day, don't really read too many comments.

Skim through via my RSS reader, and read around 10-20 articles a day.

I read, or peruse, too much. You can thank Digg RSS Reader...

Fun stuff : xkcd and the like, 4 sites

News: Chinese edition NYT and the like, 11 sites

Technical: Hacker News, Venture Beat, ARS Technica, etc. 12 sites

Daily I maybe read / peruse ~100 articles out of what is summarized in the RSS feeds. Meaning, I see an article headline, it interests me enough to actually click to open the underlying website article. Maybe half of what I open I spend 10 seconds looking at only to immediately close. Half of what remains gets a speed read scan through. Maybe 5-10 articles a day get a thorough slow read. I try not to comment as much as humanly possible. I need to do other stuff in life youknowwhatimean....

~10, no, variety, randomly.

I read most things and it makes me happy but when I read a bunch of whiny white men on Hacker News I feel sad. ;(

Such is life.

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